vintage quilts Archives - Handi Quilter

Quilting a Vintage Quilt Top

In last week’s blog post I explained how I prepared a not-so-flat vintage quilt top for finishing. If you didn’t catch it, be sure to read it first. No worries, I’ll wait.

detail of vintage quilt top quilted

 

Basic plan

Now that I had a nice flat quilt top, I could start thinking about the quilting. I wanted to ignore the seam lines in an effort to hide all the added sashing. This would make the tulips come forward and float on the background.

I planned to stitch-in-the-ditch around each set of tulips and do minimal quilting within the tulips so that they would puff forward. To accomplish the puff, there had to be some tighter background quilting behind them. And using two layers of batting, 80/20 on the bottom and wool on top is essential.

Design ideas

Drawing design ideas on Quilter’s Preview Paper  over the quilt top with a dry erase marker is a good way to start letting the ideas become real.

preview paper over vintage quilt top

Creating designs

Using Pro-Stitcher Designer, my digitizing software, I created some designs that would go over the seams and hopefully distract from them.
I start the design process by tracing the major elements of the top on Golden Threads Quilting Paper. Then I can place a 2nd piece of Golden Threads paper over that and start sketching. If I don’t like what I have drawn, I discard the paper and take fresh piece on top. I still have my major elements underneath.


After I settle on the designs, I transfer them to my Pro-Stitcher Designer software to create the digital designs for my Pro-Stitcher robotic system on my HQ Infinity.

vintage quilt top digital design

This design will be available for purchase on Quiltable.com soon!

Quilting!

Next comes the fun of quilting and seeing the quilt top come to life. I employed a combination of Pro-Stitcher robotics, ruler-work and free-motion quilting.  I wonder what Mrs. Gibson and Ora Tyler would think of their quilt today?

detail of vintage quilt top quilted

Of course a quilt is not finished until there’s a label. I chose to use one of the spare blocks as the label. Turning the corner of the block back so that the penciled name and hand stitching is visible. I think that is such a charming aspect of this vintage top.

You can also see how the block does not lay flat.

I printed the list of names of all the contributors to the quilt, along with the quilter’s name (me) and date it was finished. Now I proudly consider myself part of this group of ladies. I have 13 new friends! And I wonder if I’m young enough to go by just Mary Beth? I know I’m not old enough to be known as Mrs. Krapil! Mary Beth Krapil will do I guess. 🙂

Have you ever quilted a vintage quilt top? Please share your experience in the comments. We’d love to see pictures!

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

 

Preparing a Vintage Quilt Top

I’d like to share with you my process of preparing a vintage quilt top for finishing. Each top is different and will require different things of course, but this one is my latest finish and it has an interesting story and was extra challenging.

Choosing the vintage quilt top

I loved the colors in this top the minute I saw it. And one of my favorite flowers is the tulip. Those things drew me to choose it. I did notice some fullness in the blocks, but since I have experience with quilting hand pieced vintage tops, I had confidence I could tame it. Oh boy,  was I wrong!

The Truth about vintage quilt tops

There is usually a reason these tops never get quilted. Any quilter will tell you that they have quilt tops waiting to be quilted. In modern times, it’s usually a matter of not enough hours in the day to get all our projects completed. The vintage tops that end up in estate sales or on auction sites usually have some issues that would have made quilting them difficult. Remember, most were hand quilted back in the day. This tulip quilt had some major issues. But I’m so glad I chose this one. I loved working with it and learned a few things along the way.

Preserve as much of the original as you can

I try to preserve these vintage tops as best I can. They are a piece of history. I think about the hours of work that went into the hand piecing. Just look at those pretty, even, hand stitches!

A few tucks or a stain here or there is OK, just part of the uniqueness of the piece. This quilt top was uber unique! It presented a challenge that was insurmountable without some major alterations.

After spending some time trimming frayed threads from the back, I took it to my ironing board to see how I could possibly get the top to lie a little flatter. Several hours later I came to the realization that it just was not going to happen. I had to make the difficult decision to take the quilt apart and separate the blocks.

A special group collaboration

Most of the blocks had a name written on the back in pencil (3 blocks had no name). These were not signatures, since they were all in the same handwriting. But I imagine they are a record of the maker of the block. This quilt was a collaborative group effort! Making it even more special and deserving of preservation.

Abbie

 

Kuhma

 

Laura Barton

 

Leona

 

Lizzie

 

Maude

 

Mrs. Gibson

 

Mrs. Spoor

 

Nellie Gray

 

Ora Tyler

 

Pearl

 

Stella

 

Velma

Who were these ladies?

The whole time I worked on this quilt I thought about what sort of group this might have been. Was it a quilting bee? A group who gathered around a quilting frame whenever a quilt needed quilting? Were they neighbors, friends, a church group, members of a guild? It led me to think about the groups I have had the privilege of being a part of. And the wonderful friendships I have made through quilting. I hoped these women enjoyed the same blessing I have had.

I also thought about why they might have decided to make a quilt together. Was it to comfort a sick friend? Celebrate a milestone? Donate to a worthy cause to raise money? I wondered if, back then, did they hold block exchanges? Was there many more of these quilts, one for each of the contributors? Did any of them get quilted?
I wish I knew more about these ladies.

I thought maybe they were a group with varying ages since some were just first names (younger), and some were full names, and some were surnames, Mrs. so-and-so, (older and more respected?) It was actually quite fun thinking about the possibilities. And now that I have finished the quilt, I think I am a member of the group too.

Back to work

But back to the job of preparing this top. I had to un-sew the blocks on this vintage quilt top to see if I could somehow stitch them together in a way that would let them lie flat.

My original idea was to add sashing to compensate for blocks that were not all the same size. That’s quite often a common problem with group quilts. But when I got them apart, it became apparent what the problem actually was.
The blocks were not square, or rectangular. They were an unusual shape with sort of pointy wings in each corner.

not square vintage quilt

Someone, (I wonder who?), painstakingly sewed these blocks together by hand. That was certainly a labor of love.

You can see the middles of each side are straight but then they bow outward to the pulled-out corners. I thought about adding melon shapes between the blocks but after measuring and discovering no two blocks measured the same, I gave up on that idea.

The fix

I trimmed the blocks to as square as possible without losing any of the tulip.


Because they were all different sizes I decided to add sashing to each block, to make them all the same size. I hunted for a muslin that matched the vintage muslin background.This process required a lot of accurate measuring and math.

I was hoping that the quilting would eventually hide the seams required to add the sashings, and that the tulips would simply be floating on the background.

Once the blocks were all brought to a uniform size, I sewed them back together into a quilt top. Here they are laid out ready to be sewn. I feel I preserved the look of the vintage quilt top and didn’t really alter it too much.

Sadly, I did have to eliminate four of the blocks. The piecing on those would not allow me to press them anywhere close to flat. Let me publicly apologize to those ladies whose blocks didn’t make it back into the quilt. I’m so sorry, I know you did your best.
One of those blocks did get used on the back for the label. I might just hand stitch the other three to the back of the quilt as well. Just so the group can stay together.

Now that I had a nice flat quilt top, I could start thinking about the quilting. Come back next week and I’ll share about creating the designs and quilting with my HQ Infinity.

This quilt will be featured in the May/June issue of Love of Quilting magazine.

 

by Mary Beth Krapil

 

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